Valium is a powerful medication with a complex effect on the central nervous system. Learn more about the drug uses, side effects, precautions, and contraindications from the post.
Valium – Life without Anxiety
Valium made a real revolution in the therapy of anxiety disorders in 1963 when it was launchedin the US market.
For more than a decade, it kept its leadership among anxiolytics due to its high efficacy and relative safety.
Currently, the preparation has already lost its leading position, but it is still used by more than a million Americans per year.
The multiple health issues that can be improved with Valium and its availability and affordability make it the preparation of choice for many people.
So what can you treat with this drug and how it works?
Let’s find out!
- Medication: Diazepam (brand name: Valium)
- Dosage: 10 mg
- Price per pill: starting at $3.49
The Basics about Valium
If you take a look at the protocols of treatment for generalized anxiety disorder or panic attacks, you’ll find Valium is the first-line treatment in such cases.
However, these are not the only indications for taking this preparation.
The anxiolytic, muscle-relaxant, anticonvulsant, sedative, and amnestic effects of the substance make it effective in the therapy of the following medical conditions:
- alcohol withdrawal syndrome;
- muscle spasticity due to trauma, muscle inflammation, stiff-man syndrome;
- convulsive disorders (adjunct treatment).
Aside from the on-label use, this preparation is often used off-label to relieve the symptoms of restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and other medical conditions and induce sedation in the ICU.
Still, the scientific evidence of diazepam efficacy in such patients is lacking.
How does it work? The active substance in the Valium pills is called diazepam. It is a benzodiazepine preparation, which works by binding to the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the CNS and facilitating their effects.
When taken by mouth, diazepam comes into effect within 15 minutes. In some cases, the preparation needs about an hour to come into full effect.
Due to the multiple health conditions it can be effective for, diazepam comes in a variety of medical forms. As for the brand name Valium, it is available in pills and injections.
This preparation is only recommended for short-term use (up to four months), as there’s no clinical evidence of Valium being safe in patients taking it longer.
Anyway, the FDA recommendations say that your doctor may prolong your therapy after reevaluating the effectiveness of treatment with this drug.
To make the most of your treatment and ensure its safety, it’s essential to take Valium correctly.
Otherwise, your therapy may lack the result you expect or you can put yourself at an increased risk of side effects.
Have a look at some general recommendations regarding the intake of diazepam.
- Take the medication exactly as told by your healthcare provider.
- Start with low doses of the drug and gradually increase it until the desired effect is achieved.
- Ingest Valium pills on an empty stomach. This speeds up the onset of its effects and ensures the maximum effectiveness of the drug. Taking the medication with a fatty meal delays its absorption from the gastric tract, thus postponing the peak plasma concentration time.
- Never change your dosage or intake schedule without agreeing on this with your GP.
- Take the preparation at even gaps of time at the same time daily to sustain even concentrations in your body.
Please note that these are only general recommendations, and it’s up to your doctor to decide what scheme is best for you and your medical condition.
The levels of anxiety in the general adult population worldwide dramatically increased within the past couple of years.
In 2020, the WHO reported a 25% anxiety prevalence increase due to the pandemic.
However, the problem hasn’t been resolved with the disease being taken under control.
British scientists say that an average of 37.1% of women and 29.9% of men experience high levels of anxiety in 2023. These figures grew by more than 10% compared to those surveyed in 2012 – 2015.
But can all these people use Valium?
Definitely not! There is a range of contraindications that don’t allow prescribing this medication to a random person suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Here are some of the medical conditions that work as contraindications to Valium intake:
- hypersensitivity to diazepam or other component of the pill;
- severe respiratory insufficiency;
- myasthenia gravis;
- severe liver disease;
- sleep apnea;
- acute narrow-angle glaucoma.
Due to a lack of clinical experience and proof of the safety of using Valium in children under 6 months old, this preparation is contraindicated in such patients.
As for the use of diazepam in pregnant individuals, it is generally considered safe. However, healthcare providers should prescribe the lowest dose possible and minimize the duration of therapy to avoid any negative consequences for the fetus.
Also, the intake of any benzodiazepines is not recommended in the first trimester.
The intake of some medicines together with Valium can negatively influence your treatment effectiveness and safety.
The reason is some preparations can create a synergistic effect with diazepam, thus skyrocketing your risks of developing severe adverse reactions.
On the other hand, there’s a chance your other treatment will make diazepam less effective.
To avoid both scenarios, never take Valium with
- opioid medications like Codeine, Oxycodone, Fentanyl, etc.;
- antipsychotics (Haloperidol, Clozapine);
- sedative medications;
- CYP450 inhibitors, like ketoconazole and omeprazole.
You should also abstain from drinking alcohol when on Valium as they both work as CNS depressants and can potentiate each other’s effects, thus increasing the risks for respiratory depression and other dangerous side effects.
Adverse Reactions to Valium
Any medication bears some risks of side effects. Valium is no exception. The most often reported unwanted reactions to the therapy with this preparation include:
- muscle weakness;
- ataxia (involuntary muscle movements).
Severe adverse reactions to Valium are also possible. The most dangerous of them are related to your psychiatric condition. They are hallucinations, rage, agitation, delusions, and others. Also, you should be aware of the risks of hypersensitivity reactions, which are< however, rare.
Diazepam is a Schedule IV substance, which means it has a high potential for abuse.
Only four to six weeks of regular use are enough to form psychological dependence on the drug.
Millions of people around the globe abused benzos, including Valium, at least once.
How to know you are growing addicted to Valium?
Healthcare professionals working in this sphere outline several “red flags”:
- you continue taking the medication despite the unwanted reactions you may experience;
- you limit your contacts with family and friends;
- you have regular strong cravings for another dose of Valium;
- you lose interest in activities you used to enjoy.
What leads to such a problem?
Typically, the development of tolerance and addiction results from ignoring the guidelines your doctor has given you. For instance, you take a larger dose of the drug once in a while or use it more often or longer than recommended.
Fortunately, you can prevent this by following your doctor’s advice.
How Is It Dangerous?
The main reason we want to avoid dependence is the growing risk of a drug overdose that comes along.
People continue increasing their dosage until severe adverse reactions hit them.
Valium overdose symptoms are severe and may include drowsiness, double vision, bluish lips, poor coordination, and weakness.
Trouble breathing and respiratory depression are the most dangerous signs of Valium overdose, which can be lethal.
Your doctor, not yourself, should initiate treatment with Valium. It’s up to a healthcare professional to weigh all the benefits and risks and make a decision that is better for you.
Your task is to carefully follow their recommendations.
Despite all the hazards that Valium brings along, this medication is really effective in the therapy of anxiety and panic attacks. So, trust your doctor and get the best treatment you need.
When should I take Valium?
Depending on your condition, you may need to take it 2 – 4 times a day. The dose and the frequency of intakes should be agreed upon with your doctor.
How long does Valium last?
The effects of Valium kick in within 15 minutes of intake and last for an average of 4 – 6 hours.
Can I treat restless leg syndrome with Valium?
Some healthcare providers do recommend taking Valium for RLS. However, this is an off-label use of the drug, which means there’s no scientific evidence of diazepam effectiveness in such patients.
Is Valium safe?
When following the instructions of your healthcare provider carefully, the risks of getting any unwanted reactions to Valium are rather low.